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Can a Massage Competition Change Your Life?

Look who's wearing a medal!
Look who’s wearing a medal!

I’m back from the first ever World Massage Championships in Copenhagen and I didn’t return empty-handed. I won a silver medal, which was an unexpected but lovely surprise. I went to the competition to show off the Kneader and introduce a new way of doing chair massage, so I didn’t expect any award or for the experience to be a game-changer for me on a deeper level, but it has.

A welcome break

First let me say that I adored beautiful Copenhagen.  It’s small but perfectly formed, with great food, super coffee and it’s refreshingly bicycle-friendly. So, I took a couple days off and had a blast being a tourist. It’s incredible how being away from the daily routine helps you stop, take a breath and live in the moment, which really helped clear my mind and prepare for the weekend ahead.

Throwing yourself into the midst of 75 strangers for a weekend is daunting enough without adding in the tension of competition.  That said, this competition was filled with massage therapists passionate about helping people feel better, so the experience was never going to anything but positive.  I had the genuine pleasure to be surrounded by interesting, caring and affectionate people. We were all so busy laughing and getting to know each other that the massaging became more about sharing our professional information as a whole rather than scoring individual points or winning prizes, which is very much the holistic way of thinking.

The Competition

The competition itself flew by in a blur of giving and receiving massage. There were so many amazing moves that it felt more like a masterclass and there was much mental note-taking. One thing that struck me is that massage is evolving into a more prescriptive and free-style treatment, with many therapists designing their own routines inspired by a variety of massage disciplines: Swedish, sports massage, soft tissue release, wellness (including using tools and essential oils) and Asian/Thai massage. There I was thinking that I was being really radical showing up with a new type of tool and a different chair routine when, in fact, I would be one of many self-styled massage innovators!

Of course, there is still great demand (and rightly so) for the more traditional routines like Swedish table massage. I received one of the best table treatments I have ever had from the fabulously graceful Alexis Brua, who’s mastery of the moves meant that his pressure was always just right. It was also a joy to watch Miloslav Skoric do a perfect, classic Swedish massage in the final – both therapists reminded me that I started off on my journey with Swedish massage and how much I love and miss it.

I came away with more than a medal

So, I’m back in the UK and have now rested up and done much mental processing of the whole event over many pots of tea.

If I had any regret it would be that I didn’t see more of everyone’s massage (so much massage, so little time!) and, in particular, I missed seeing gold medallist Christina Blei-Amatdoelrasit doing her full bamboo sticks routine. There was some initial confusion about categories – which ones and how many one could enter into – so Christina and I (the only chair competitors using tools) never worked with each other. What I did see was all other chair competitors massaging legs and feet, which made me wonder why wasn’t I doing that?

So, my first (and easiest) change will be to incorporate a legs/feet element into my chair routine. But there’s so much more to do….

Being surrounded by people that are full-time massage therapists made me face that fact that I need to do the same. I was particularly humbled by the fact that so many competitors attended despite great cost, distance or their own personal issues. Such was the need of all of us to be amongst our peers and share our collective love and commitment to massage.

For too long my massage business, Kneads Must (which incorporates producing and selling my tool, the Kneader, as well as massaging clients with it) has been only a part-time business, side-lined by my financially safe night job as a legal document specialist. It’s time to make a change and commit to one life completely, so I will start paring back my night job to give more attention to my company. I’m also looking into getting a sports massage/soft tissue release qualification, because I think the Kneader is made for prescriptive massage and I want to explore more of this growing trend.

Looking towards the future

So, lots of changes on the horizon for me, and I pray that I have the strength and determination to carry out each and every one of them to fruition. I’ve already signed up for the 2018 Championships, which will be in London next year, and I hope to be presenting a better me, with new chair and table massage routines. I’m delighted to say that the Facebook page that was started for the competitors will remain as a platform for sharing our massage lives and knowledge. It’s a great way of keeping in touch and helping each other grow, so I will be keeping in touch with everyone through that – thanks Jeppe/Joe for organising.

I look forward to seeing all my massage family again in 2018 (those I know and those I look forward to meeting). Until then, all the very best and, of course, ‘Namaste’!